Tuesday, May 26, 2009

What's Growing in the Garden 5/26/09

Sugar snap peas, planted April 2nd, are 2' tall.

Yukon Gold potatoes, ready for hilling

Red Rhododendron starting to bloom

Orange Azalea in full bloom

Red onions, Johnny Jump Ups and a new deck

Take a look at Amy's beautiful photographs of my garden.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Green Garlic: a culimary treat

Green garlic is the young shoot of garlic before it matures into the familiar bulb. It can be found at farmers' markets between March and May. Here in southern New Hampshire, in mid-May, my garlic bed is ready to be thinned out.

When I planted garlic last fall, I planted them closer than the recommended 4" apart, ensuring a surplus of the "weeded" out baby shoots, the green garlic that is much sought after by restaurant chefs.

The flavor of green garlic is definitely garlicky without the pungency of mature garlic. If you sometimes avoid garlic because of its strong lingering taste, green garlic will surprise you with its delicate sweet taste and mild manner. I use it as a substitute for regular garlic or, cut up into 1/2" pieces, in place of scallions in stir fries. I've used it in Beef with Asparagus and sprinkled over Homemade Naan right after it comes out of the oven. What you get is a mild unobtrusive taste of garlic.

Although the whole plant can be eaten, I use only the white and light green parts. The darker green leaves are a bit tough and strong and would be good to add to soups and stews but I haven't tried that yet, so stay tuned for more about garlic this summer.

Green garlic or baby garlic straight from the garden

Pasta with Shrimp, Spinach and Green Garlic

This is my go to pasta with greens, olive oil and garlic. Note that these amounts are approximate, I don't really measure anything when I make this, and I make it almost weekly with endless variations depending on what vegetables are on hand. Last week was the first picking of baby spinach and green garlic and so they came together in this super easy pasta

1/2 lb thin spaghetti, or pasta of your choice
1/2 lb peeled and deveined raw shrimp
4 TBS olive oil
4 - 6 cups baby spinach or any other vegetables
3 to 4 green garlic, minced, white and light green parts only
Salt and Pepper to taste
Hot pepper flakes to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook spaghetti in a large pot of generously salted boiling water for 4 to 5 minutes until al dente. Reserve one cup or so of cooking liquid and drain. In the same pot the pasta was cooked in, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium high heat. Add green garlic and a pinch of pepper flakes, cook 30 seconds. Add the shrimp, salt and pepper and cook until shrimp is pink but not completely cooked, about 2 minutes. Remove from pan onto a plate. Add two tablespoons oil to the same pan and add pasta and a little cooking liquid if too dry. Salt and pepper to taste. Cook until heated through, about 2 to 3 minutes. Return shrimp to pan and add spinach. Continue cooking and stirring until spinach is slightly wilted and bright green, about 2 minutes, adding pasta cooking liquid as needed. Remove from heat and serve, topped with grated Parmesan. Serves 4.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Homemade Naan, It's Easy and Fun

A popular Indian flat bread, Naan is traditionally baked in a clay Tandoor oven, but with a pizza stone you too can make authentic delicious naan.

Adapted from a recipe from Manjula's Kitchen, the dough is simple to make and the timing is flexible. You can set the dough to rise in the morning and bake when you get home from work. Or you can let it rise over night and bake any time the next day. If you can't get to it right away, punch the dough down and put it in the fridge. When you're ready, bring it back to room temperature before shaping and baking.

Naan Recipe:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of baking soda
2 tablespoons oil
2 1/2 tablespoons plain yogurt
3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup all purpose flour for rolling

1 TBS melted butter
Fleur de Sel (Kosher salt can be substituted)
Fresh cracked black pepper

Dissolve yeast in warm water and let "bloom" for 15 minutes.

Put flour, salt, sugar and baking soda in the bowl of a standing mixer and, using the dough hook, mix on low until combined. Add yogurt, oil and yeast mixture then knead on medium, for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add small amounts of flour if too wet, until a very soft ball of dough forms. Turn out onto floured board and knead lightly by hand, adding flour to the board to keep the soft dough from sticking.

Put dough back into the same bowl used for mixing and let rise, at room temperature, at least 2 hours or until it doubles in bulk.

When ready to bake, preheat oven, with pizza stone in the lower quarter of the oven, to 500 degrees. Punch down the dough using oiled hands and, on a well floured board, knead lightly and divide into six equal balls.

Roll balls out into a rectangle about 1/4" thick, using plenty of flour to prevent dough from sticking.

Gently place two or three naans directly on baking stone and bake 5 to 7 minutes, watch closely as they can burn quickly. When puffy with brown spots all over, they're ready and should be placed on a cooling rack. While still warm, brush lightly with melted butter, sprinkle with Fleur de Sel and fresh cracked pepper. Proceed with the rest of the batch. Makes 6 Naans

We love Naan with Indian curries and chutneys but it's equally at home with kabobs or even aged cheddar cheese. We eat it with everything but our absolute favorite is all by itself, fresh and still warm from the oven. There's nothing like it. Should there be any left overs, they toast up perfectly in the toaster oven, much like the sourdough waffles. I can see how this could be habit forming.

My naans are never of uniform size or shape but don't sweat that part, they bake up perfectly every time, always delicious and they disappear quickly.

Here's a video from Manjula's Kitchen that I found helpful.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beef with Asparagus

They're here! The asparagus have finally arrived. Having an asparagus bed in the garden is like money in the bank, the dividends come each spring like clock work.

Asparagus is a perennial, and that means it is planted once and will produce for 15 years or more. If you have a garden and don't have an asparagus bed, spring is a good time to do it. Growing asparagus is easy but only for the patient. Plant the roots this spring but no harvesting until next year and even then only very lightly. On the third year and every year thereafter they're yours for the pickin', forgive the pun. Here's more info on how to plant an asparagus bed.

We love asparagus in every which way--roasted, grilled, steamed, in stir fry and pasta dishes. An old family favorite is Stir-Fried Beef with Vegetables--asparagus, green beans, broccoli, whatever is in season and available, but for us this week asparagus has center stage.

Beef with Asparagus

1/2 lb flank steak, thinly sliced across the grain
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
oil for frying
4 scallions, cut in 1 1/2-inch lengths
1 lb asparagus cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch lengths
2 TBS oyster sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 TBS water

Marinate meat with cornstarch, soy sauce, salt, sugar, and garlic for 10 minutes.
Heat wok or large frying pan, add 2 tablespoons oil and heat. Toss in scallions and cook 30 seconds. Add meat and stir-fry over high hear for a minute until browned on the outside and pink in the middle. Remove from pan. Heat 2 more tablespoons oil in the same pan, add asparagus, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and stir-fry over high heat for a minute or two until asparagus is tender but still al dente. Add a bit of water if the pan is too dry. Return meat and scallions to pan, add oyster sauce and soy sauce. Add cornstarch-water mixture and give a quick stir until thickened. Serve over jasmine rice or short grain brown rice. This is a seasonal delight that will wean you from Chinese take-out forever. Serves 4.

Links to easy asparagus recipes:
Grilled Asparagus
Roastd Asparagus
Wok-Seared Chicken with Asparagus & Pistachios

Do you have a favorite asparagus recipes? Do share them below in the comment section.